Hut 20 – Auxillary Fire Service and Bevin Boys
On three occasions this Century in 1916, 1939 and 1947, the British Parliament has resorted to compulsory military service requiring men over the age of 18 years to serve in one of the nation’s three armed services.
Women and men not conscripted into the forces were mobilised into the reserved occupations like engineering, farming, medicine or civilian administration.
Conscription began in May 1939, when the Military Training Act was introduced for young men aged 20 and 21, who were required to undertake six months military training. On the first day of war, Parliament passed the National Services Act, making all men between 18 and 41 liable for conscription. One of the interesting features about the act was the provision for conscientious objection to military service on either pacifist or political grounds.
It was an accepted principle of warfare that soldiers, sailors, and airmen needed to pay careful attention to their general well being. A considerable amount of comfort and good cheer was provided by organisations such as the Church Army, Salvation Army and the Y.M.C.A.
The Auxiliary Fire Service (A.F.S.) and Women’s Auxiliary Fire Service (W.A.F.S.)
The Auxiliary Fire Service grew as part of the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) recruitment drive. The men and women who became part-timers in the fire service gave up one night in three to be at the station, and another to be ‘on call’. Of course, this was in addition to a full days civilian job.
The Bevin Boys
With the outbreak of war, young men saw an opportunity to get away from the pits, thus creating a desperate need for manpower. At the end of 1943, in a desperate bid to raise manpower and production in the pits, the ‘Bevin Boy’ scheme was introduced. One out of every ten young men coming of age for calling up to the forces, was chosen, by ballot, to go into the mines. This was an extremely unpopular measure, both with the Bevin Boys and the miners. There was no glamour in being sent down the pits.